Study finds the “adultification” of black girls starts as early as 5 years old


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/07/03/study-finds-the-adultificat.html


#2

Ouch!

If we ever get out of crazytown, there’s a lot of cleaning up to do…


#3

In before the rationalizations start flying…


#4

Sick. Everyone deserves a chance to be a kid.


#5

Not the least bit surprising to a person of color born & raised in the US.

This is just part of the sad reality we live in.


#6

A (slightly) more in-depth article here: http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2017/06/28/black_girls_are_seen_as_being_older_than_their_age.html

I think it’s easy for (white) people reading the study to just say “that’s terrible,” and not think about their own perceptions. Hopefully, though, like the Implicit Bias tests that have been making the rounds in the past few years (and even came up in the presidential debates), people will start to recognize this as a systemic bias that they themselves are likely to share without realizing it, and thereby start to correct it in themselves.

The students were also shown photographs alongside descriptions of various crimes and asked to assess the age and innocence of white, black or Latino boys ages 10 to 17. The students overestimated the age of blacks by an average of 4.5 years and found them more culpable than whites or Latinos


#7

Yes, though addressing the problem more AT systemic levels would be great too (for example, increased curricular reform, including teaching undergone by those planning to become teachers, monitored hiring practices, increased funding in general for public ed – and on and on).


#8

Not at all shocked by this. On the theme of stereotyping based on appearances, I wonder if there is a study about U.S. girls in general, too. The practice of putting makeup, jewelry, and adult clothing styles on children is another erasure of childhood.

Babies and small children used to have a unique appearance. Now lots of parents try to make them look like small imitations of adults. I cannot understand why this is popular, but it creeps me out to see little girls (under 12 years old) encouraged to clog their pores with makeup, get massages at the spa, and dress like they are in their 20s.


#9

It would be interesting(though I’m not quite sure how you would do it) to pick at what the subjects thought they meant by ‘culpable’.

Typically, the reason given for why someone isn’t culpable(for a thing they did do; obviously there is an entire genre of ‘isn’t culpable because he didn’t do it’ arguments) is because they lack the cognitive capacity for true agency. It may well be true, and can save you more severe punishment; but it isn’t exactly a compliment of your intellectual capacity.

If the subjects are talking about culpability in this way, overestimating culpability is sort of an interesting move: yes, it conveniently implies grounds for some vigorous punishing; but it also implies that they thought the blacks were smart enough to be moral agents where the whites and latinos were not.

One wonders if that is actually what they had in mind, or whether there was some sort of composite consideration at work(in the case of children, say, you might also see them as less culpable because you see their character more malleable; and view them as better prospects for possible reform; in which case differences in culpability judgement are less about their present capacity and more about what, if any, future improvement you expect).


#10

I think you’re overlooking the centuries-long legacy of white supremacy that’s still influencing these subjects’ perspectives. From such a perspective, “black adult” does not (infuriatingly enough) correlate with “smart.”

Anyway, as I understand it, culpability in this context just means whether a kid did something wrong. Those with the power to discipline assume more often that black girls actually did a wrong thing than they do that other kids did.


#11

Oh, I don’t doubt at all that the ‘ready for punishing’ aspect of ‘culpable’ is the major attraction. I’d just be curious to know what theory of what makes people more or less culpable the subjects, if pressed, would express; since while ‘more culpable = more punishable’ is an obvious crowd pleaser; ‘more culpable = smarter and more of a real person’ is less obviously in line with prevailing stereotypes.

Especially given the tendency to describe the criminality of people you especially dislike as ‘animalistic’. Animals tend to have conveniently low requirements for being put down; but they are even less culpable than children or the cognitively impaired.

It’s quite possible that there isn’t really a coherent theory of culpability, beyond ‘culpable is a fancy word for bad’, at work; but it struck me as curious because, at least for some common understandings of culpability(both the basic ‘smart enough to be a moral agent’ stuff that is required to qualify for culpability at all; and the cold premeditation that is required for extra-negative judgements of your motives; with impulsive acts and accidents ranking as less serious); ‘culpable’ is both something of a compliment to the subject’s intellect and in direct opposition to the notion that their criminality is ‘animalistic’.


#12

Agreed; according to those who hold such erroneous beliefs, we’re only considered more “animalistic”, or sexually advanced, not more mentally advanced.


#13

Never go to a child’s dance recital. I am still traumatized by what the kids were wearing. I went to my nieces last year and was shocked by the “costume”, makeup, and demeanor of 8 year old girls. These were 8 year olds dressed as 30 year old strippers, talking about their boyfriends. In the audience it was hard to tell who were the single dads and who were the pedophiles. Some of the dances were overly sexualized and just creepy. I left feeling dirty and glad I never wanted to do dance as a kid.


#14

Someone in the UK thought this was a good idea in the 80s


#15

Oh yeah, I remember those. I specifically remember their version of “Hey Mickey”. As a kid it struck me as bizarre since I didn’t really get cheerleaders back then. I get a bit creeped out now that I think back on it.


#16

I wish I could blame the 80’s.

We also had Stars in Their Eyes: Kids (2001-2006) which I vaguely recall being almost as bad.


#17

I’m glad I missed that.

It must have been around the time I stopped watching ITV as I had given up hope of them showing anything good ever again.


#18

Blame commercialism.


#19

(I am always analyzing things from the POV of wondering if others are aware of and intending their ambiguity. It is both a blessing and a curse.)

I wonder how this ties in to measures of maturity always being only used against children for punitive reasons. The skew is always that one has enough maturity to understand their responsibilities, their accountability to society - but seemingly never with the commensurate rights and respect that this would imply.

If I was tried as an adult for crimes, and then acquitted, am I not emancipated? If I am recognized as being old enough to be responsible for my actions, then I should be able to enter into contracts and other such adult activities. That it is only ever punitive is too “convenient” to be credible.


#20

I agree with this in principle, but:

  1. The child mind is not developed enough to make this determination on its own,
  2. Children mature at vastly different rates, and
  3. You really need experienced adults trained in child psychology to evaluate each child objectively, which is not practical.

IMHO, because of these critical points, it is not safe to treat children like adults. Worse, the damage done if you fuck up a child emotionally lasts literally a lifetime, so it is not worth the risk to try.